COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A legislator indicted on allegations of beating his wife should resign, leaders of the South Carolina Legislature said Thursday, with one lawmaker calling it "terrifying and horrific" to hear children on a 911 call screaming for their daddy to stop.
The comments come a day after Rep. Chris Corley was indicted on felony domestic violence charges and suspended from his House seat.
State law requires an officeholder indicted on a felony to be suspended. Corley's wife told deputies he stopped hitting her on Dec. 26 only after noticing she was bleeding and hearing the screams of two of their three children, ages 2 and 8.
Corley said his wife tried to punch him after accusing him of cheating, and the police report noted a scratch on his forehead.
House Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope, a former solicitor, told reporters that "in fairness to the system, it's not our place to call for him to resign."
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey disagreed.
While Corley is innocent until proven guilty, "there's a big difference between the criminal and political side," said Massey, a Republican. "This is not OK. It's not OK to beat up your wife. ... It's important that we're very clear to say it's not acceptable."
Massey, whose district includes much of Corley's, said their Aiken County constituents deserve House representation, which they won't have while Corley faces charges that could net him 25 years in prison.
Corley is charged with pointing a firearm and domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, which alone is punishable by 20 years. The indictment accuses him of hitting his wife in the face, head and body with a closed fist and with a gun while in the presence of children.
"High and aggravated is a big deal, y'all," said Massey, an attorney. "It doesn't get any higher than that unless you kill somebody."
In a call to Aiken city police, no one talks to the operator but "please stop" can be heard repeatedly in audio released by the Aiken County Sheriff's Office. "Just stop daddy. Just stop. ... Daddy, why are you doing this?" children say on the call.
"What I heard on that 911 call is just terrifying and horrific," said Mandy Powers Norrell, a Democrat.
House Majority Leader Gary Simrill said if Corley doesn't resign, he could be expelled, a process that would start with a complaint to the House Ethics Committee.
Corley, an attorney, has not returned calls to The Associated Press. His attorney declined to give reporters his name at last week's bond hearing.
The 36-year-old Republican was easily re-elected to a second term in November with no opposition.